A GRAIN OF WHEAT MUST DIE
T. PIERCE BROWN
In John 12:20-24, there is a statement with far more profound implications than most of us have realized. No doubt Jesus was talking about his own death, but the principle of which He spoke touches almost every aspect of life.
The Greeks had come to Philip saying, “We would see Jesus.” Doubtless they wanted to do more than merely look at Him with the natural eye, for they would not have needed to ask Philip about that. We could probably better understand His response to them if we understand that their philosophical ideals were embodied in those like Apollo, Hercules, Ulysses and others endowed with beauty, strength and self sufficiency. He wanted to impress upon them and all mankind that it was by dying that great things were produced, not by self-gratification, human wisdom and philosophy.
When He used the simple, natural, self-evident truth about the grain of wheat, He was emphasizing principles that are broad and deep in their implications and applications. The seed looks no more alive than a stone, but it has within it the mystery and power of life. Man can make a rock, but he cannot make a seed with the germ of life in it. Yet in it is a paradox. It is dead or non-productive because it has not died. It must die in order to live. It must be buried in the earth where its outer form decays before the life within it can be manifested. Note another paradox. It may be surrounded by a multitude of other seeds, but it is alone in the deepest sense, for it has no reaction to those about it or any living union with anything. But when it dies and is buried in accordance with God’s law, it becomes united with the force of universal life and lives again in a new, more glorious and multiplied form.
Christ had to die for many reasons. One that may seem strange to us is that it was the only way He could reproduce Himself in the life of His followers. It may seem strange, for we know that a human teacher may teach great truths and principles, and the students may appropriate those truths and apply those principles and reproduce the teacher’s philosophy and character in their own lives. Why could Jesus not have done likewise — simply lived and taught so that we could follow His example and reproduce His life in ours?
There may be several reasons, but the main one is that without His death, mankind had neither the incentive nor the power to reproduce His life and teaching. For example, He taught us that we should love our enemies enough to die for them. Can you imagine Socrates, Aristotle, Plato or any other person teaching that, doing that, or producing followers who could or would?
When Christ did it, He not only showed that it can be done, He gave the motive, purpose and power to do it. That motive and purpose has to do with the reality of redemption and eternal life which His death made possible. The power has to do with the fact that when we die to self, become united with Him in the likeness of His death, we become partakers of the Divine Nature and are “strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man” (Ephesians3:16).
This is just a small portion of why Christ had to die to reproduce Himself in His followers. Perhaps a lesson of as great significance is that we have to do likewise. When we, like a grain of wheat, die and become united with eternal life forces which God ordained, then we can produce fruit for Christ. It involves dying to self, Satan and sin. This is what happens when we repent. It involves being buried with Christ in baptism, being united with Him who is the source of all life. It involves being raised up with a new life. The grain of wheat must die, and a new kind of thing comes up. It is still wheat, but a different form. It was a seed; now it is a stalk, head, etc. It multiplies, and produces after its kind, but also produces other things, such as hay or straw. A Christian is the same person he was before he became such, but with a new form of life, will and purpose. He will produce another Christian, but will also produce the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians5:22).
You cannot really live until you die, and there is enough material in these simple words of Jesus to provide for several articles. But if this has caused you to think more deeply of the value of dying and being buried with Christ, we are grateful.